Parties Aim to Complete CFE by November 1999

At the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe's (OSCE) December 2–3 foreign ministers meeting in Oslo, the United States, Russia and the other 28 parties to the Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE) Treaty committed themselves to completing adaptation of the 1992 treaty by next year's OSCE summit in Istanbul, scheduled for November 14–15. The adaptation negotiations, ongoing since January 1997, aim to replace the Cold War bloc-to-bloc and concentric zone structure of the CFE with national and territorial limits for each state.

To meet this goal, the states-parties noted that "outstanding key issues" will have to be resolved and drafting of the adapted treaty started within the first months of 1999. (The key issues include whether to apply territorial limits to combat aircraft and attack helicopters, temporary deployment limits, future of the so-called flank-zone, equipment limits for states in Central Europe and mechanisms for revising and exceeding limits.) Although Moscow endorsed the timetable, Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov reiterated Russia's long-standing demand that negotiations conclude before April 1999, when the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland join NATO.

On December 8, NATO moved to mollify Russian concerns about NATO's future military presence in new members by repeating a March 14, 1997 pledge that the alliance will pursue collective defense through "ensuring the necessary interoperability, integration, and capability for reinforcement rather than by additional permanent stationing of substantial combat forces." NATO also declared that "exceptional temporary deployments" will not be used for permanent stationing of combat forces, will not be "routine" and will not be directed against any specific country.

Russia, however, has sought quantitative limits rather than reassurances and remains opposed to NATO's exceptional temporary deployment proposal. That proposal would permit states outside of the flank zone temporary deployments of 459 tanks, 723 armored combat vehicles (ACVs) and 420 artillery pieces, whereas states within the flank zone, such as Russia, would be limited to temporary deployments of 153 tanks, 241 ACVs and 140 artillery pieces. The flank zone, which will be retained in the adapted treaty, limits the tanks, ACVs and artillery in the northern and southern flanks of Europe, where Russia claims serious security threats.